Posted on

Ivory Lute: Questions Remain

Ivory Lute: Questions Remain

by Robert Lundberg

Originally published in American Lutherie #32, 1992 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Three, 2004

See also,
6-Course Ivory Lute labeled Magno dieffopruchar a venetia, ca. 1550 in the collection of J. & A. Beare Ltd. by Ken Sribnick and Gayle Miller
Ivory Lute: Picture This by Ken Sribnick and Gayle Miller

The paucity of historical 6-course lutes is well known, so lute makers were understandably excited when the beautiful ivory lute labeled Magno dieffoprucher a venetia surfaced at Christie’s auction house for their May sale in 1981. It sold for ₤4500, which was well below the estimate, and ended up in the collection at Charles Beare’s violin shop (J. & A. Beare Ltd., 7 Broadwick Street, London W1) where I was unsuccessful in getting access to examine it on two subsequent occasions.

In July of 1982, while the lute was open in the Beare workrooms, the English lute maker Stephen Barber (11a Peacock Yard, London S.E. 17) published a nicely detailed and informative set of measured drawings consisting of two sheets with interior and exterior views plus notes. These were a welcome addition to a very short list of really complete museum-quality lute drawings. We are shown a nine-rib, somewhat shallow ivory body with dark spacers. The body, counter cap, neck block, and neck dimensions and materials conform to expectations. However, there are also depicted many unusual or unexpected features. The construction of the belly, particularly in the thicknessing, is not at all what one would expect. Also some, if not all, of the bars must be replacements. The bridge, pegbox, and nut are certainly not original. I should add that over the years there has been considerable discussion as to whether or not this lute (together with several others sharing the same provenance) is really from the mid-16th century, or whether it is a composite, or a complete fake.

Become A Member to Continue Reading This Article

This article is part of our premium web content offered to Guild members. To view this and other web articles, join the Guild of American Luthiers. Members also receive 4 annual issues of American Lutherie and get discounts on products. For details, visit the membership page.

If you are already a member, login for access or contact us to setup your account.